Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Powerful is Your God



Acts 2:22-36 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
For David says of Him, 'I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.'
Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET."
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."

When you look at Christianity, at who we are and where we have come from, there is a startling fact. Most of our theology and our understanding of God comes from stories, from experience. It is not some angel or extraterrestrial being that stands and gives us definitive statements about deity. It is not some celestial book found under a rock. Who we are as children of God is defined by stories - stories written by people like you and I who encountered God in some manner, in person or in dreams. We read the story of that encounter, and out of that story we come to understand the truth of God, he truth of who we are before that God.

Right out of the gate there are many that make the claim that all those stories are just fabrications, myths and legends. I find it amazing that in practically every culture, whether touched by modern man or not, that stories of both the flood and of a spiritual environment. People don’t have to be told there is a God. They know deep down because it is in His image we were created. People can deny the reality of God’s but that doesn’t change the Truth of His existence. An atheist is not really interested in this conversation, so let us accept the truth of God. The question then becomes, “How powerful, or how big is your God?”

In the Jewish Torah we see the story of Creation. We see the eternal God creating not just matter, but time itself. Out of eternity there is an action causing a clock to start. At some point time will end and eternity will continue on, but for that part of existence there is a measurement applied. David Felter, the editor of Holiness Today blogged about this aspect of God. Does God exist outside of time, or is He limited within time while it exists? I have no doubt that God is beyond time; that it is from God’s “eternalness” that He reaches down and interacts with Creation. Scripture and prophecy make no sense, otherwise. We have talked about the wastefulness of creation, of the grand expanse of our universe that contains billions of galaxies of which they themselves each contain billions of stars… and we look around at the seemingly easy beauty of the world around us. That is a pretty powerful God! Sometimes we try to start with a definition of God and assume truth by definition. God is omnipotent - all powerful, so how could He not be Creator? In the story of Creation we extrapolate what we consider facts out of the story’s text. We see the Spirit’s brooding, we understand the power of Christ in Creation. It is only later in the Jewish writings that we understand there was a creation possibly before Genesis, a creation of heavenly beings who maintain ranks and powers and principalities. There is a whole spiritual realm that we can’t see out there. In that place God is absolute. There is no denying truth, for truth is known. All is laid bare in ways we cannot imagine. It is a place of holiness, a holiness that examines and finds sin - all that is against God’s character. This is a mighty God who created and lives in this realm.

So God, in His power, is Creator. That is The God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the ends of the universe. God not just created me but He also knows me intimately. As the Psalmist says He knows me from my beginning, for it is He who knit me together in my mother’s womb. He knows the number of hairs on my head, and keeps my tears in a bottle. In fact, there is no place I can go where He is not. So God is not only the Creator, He is also the one that draws near. He knows us intimately not as an art critic examines a vase, but as the potter who created that vase. He knows where the clay came from and molded it in His time in His place. As we walk this earth, He walks with us and talks with us. How many encounters in the Jewish Scriptures do we see God speaking and interacting with man either directly or through an intermediary? Time and time again we see the power of God not just in His awesomeness and grandness, in His eminence, but in His closeness, His presence, His imminence. The Creator of the ends of the earth has drawn near to man. In the Garden He walked with Adam and Eve. He spoke to prophets in dreams. Theophanies and christophanies, God and Jesus becoming flesh, show up in the stories of Israel. Moses saw the hand of God.

And then was revealed the ultimate power of God, revealed in the story of Jesus, the Son of God. It is the story of the incarnation, the miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus. Peter told this story in his first sermon which we heard earlier. How many of the God’s out there take the initiative and do the finished work so that all humankind needs to do is accept in faith the free gift of eternal life. How many of the God’s of this world demand service and sacrifice, pain and suffering so that we can make ourselves worthy. My God was so powerful that He not only came near, but He redeemed me. He so loved me that He gave His only Son to die on a cross so that if I would believe with my heart and confess with my mouth, I would be saved. And that salvation is outside of time, for it shall last for eternity. It is outside the physical limitations of this world and resides in that other realm, that spiritual realm of which we know so little.

So how powerful is your God? Is He your Creator? Do the miracles in the Gospels excite you and cause you to surrender all you are to Him? Do you experience miracles in your own life? Sometimes we don’t receive because we don’t ask, and sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t really believe God can or will. Understand there is a power that resides in you if indeed you are a follower of Jesus. It is not your power. It is not an outside power at your disposal to command. It is the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit that enlivens dead and dying things. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so he has raised our spirits from the dead. We are made alive in Him, to Him. The power of my God heals and raises. The power of my God knows no limits within the natural or the spiritual worlds. Do you know this God in your life? Do you experience the death defying power of God?
Does your God you follow draw near to you? Do you have a sense of His presence? He who visited man in the Garden has drawn near through the gift of the Holy Spirit which He has shed abroad in our hearts. Do you commune with this God? Does He speak to you in your quietness; do you know Him in the inner workings of your life?
That redemption that Jesus did in the finished work of the cross is alive in you and I today. While the work of the cross was the finished work of Jesus, He is not finished with us today. What a wonder that the power of God can transform a lowly man, a girl without hope, into a man and women who are leaders in His Kingdom. He lifts us up out of the miry pits and puts our feet on solid ground, the rock of our salvation. He takes our garments soiled with sin and replaces them with garments of holiness, washed in the blood of the lamb. The power of this God who is Creator, who has drawn near in Love, is at work in your life today. Do you know Him?

I don’t mean do you know of this God, but do you know Him by experience, by relationship? Easter is about restoration, about the power of God restoring relationships. The question we ended up last week was in essence, “Why do you come to church?” Is it the Palm Sunday syndrome of following the crowd, or is it the Easter Sunrise looking for your risen Lord?

God has yet to reveal His final power - that of ending time. He created it and someday He is coming back. In that return we will see Him face to face and will be changed into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. Time will wind down and end, and we will be ushered into eternity. What a wonderful hope we hang our faith on. It is not just this life we are citizens of; we have a heavenly citizen ship and someday we will be in the presence of God Almighty forever and a day. Know Him today. Grow deep in your relationship with Him. Make Him the focus of your life.

No comments: